Hellebores: the Woodland Beauties
The graceful blooms of the Hellebore come in a beautiful range of sumptuous, dusky shades and are a welcome sight when they appear in the depths of Winter.
Hellebores are probably the most sumptuous of Winter- and early Spring-flowering perennials. Their sculptural blooms appear in shades from the purest white, through pale green to dusky pink, purple and an almost navy blue, often with speckling inside. The rich, deeply-divided foliage is usually evergreen, and several different species planted together will produce a hand-some show throughout the year.
These woodland plants will be displayed to best advantage in a rustic trough, preferably in semi-shade. Keep the compost moist, but not soggy.
PICK AND PLANT
Several species of Hellebore are available:
Stinking Hellebore (H. foetidus) – clusters of pale green, cup-shapedwith red margins.
Christmas Rose (H. niger) – large, flat, white blooms which often turn pink with age.
Lenten Rose (H. orientalis) – flowers in shades of white, pink and purple, often with speckles inside.
Green Hellebore (H. viridis) – dark green leaves and glowing, bright green blooms.
PLANTING THE TROUGH
Lay a few pieces of broken flower pot on a firm surface and break them up with a small hammer until the pieces are roughly 5cm (2in) square.
Place the pieces in the bottom of the tub, particularly over theholes.
Hellebores will thrive in a humus-rich compost: add up to a quarter by volume of leaf mould, or manure, to a free-draining compost and combine thoroughly. Fill the trough to within 15cm (6in) of the rim, firming as you go.
Remove the plants from their pots and arrange on top of the compost, with the taller varieties, such as the Stinking Hellebore, at the back. When you are satisfied, fill in the spaces with more compost and firm all round.
A bark mulch on top of the compost will not only look attractive, but also will prevent the compost from drying out too quickly in warm weather. Sprinkle on a layer of chips, about 2.5cm (1in) deep, taking care not to bury the plant crowns.